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A Bit of Pen Women History

Our National Organization - www.nlapw.com

The National League of American Pen Women was founded in Washington D.C., in 1897 by a group of journalists who felt there should be an organization which would include women of the press as members. By the end of its first year, when the group was incorporated, its membership included professional artists, writers and composers, just as it does today.

The League’s headquarters is a cool, turreted twenty-room mansion--the Pen Arts Building--which is a short walk from the White House. President Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd Lincoln, was its most famous resident. Today, a room in the building is devoted to League member Vinnie Ream, who created the famous sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, “Pensive Lincoln,” which stands in the Capitol Rotunda. The League’s archives, a library of books that Pen Women authors have donated, and members’ art work are also housed in “Pen Arts.”

Pen Women are welcome to stay in the building’s bedrooms for a modest fee, and many from Hawaii have enjoyed exploring the building and the historic district surrounding it.

Honolulu Pen Women

No, the Honolulu Branch of the NLAPW is not as old as its national parent, but it’s not a newcomer in Hawaii. Founded in 1924, it received its charter (#27) in 1925. Because its members met regularly even during World War II, it claims the honor of being “the oldest continuously-operating professional arts organization in Hawaii.”

The Honolulu Branch was first called the Aloha Branch because one of its purposes was to extend hospitality to visiting artists, musicians and writers. During the years when visitors to the Islands were few, the branch’s Celebrity Breakfasts were important annual events on Hawaii’s social calendar.

Our branch formed lasting ties with both the military and the libraries in Hawaii. Mrs. George S. Patton, Jr., whose husband was the famed World War II general, and Mrs. James F. Collins, wife of the commander-in-chief of the U.S. army, Pacific, were Honolulu branch members. For a time before the war, our branch president was an ex-officio member of the Friends of the Library board, and for many years, our (then annual) art show was held in the Library of Hawaii’s main building. For years, the library maintained a Pen Women’s Shelf, containing works by branch members, and a portion of our now-historic archives are housed in the University of Hawaii’s Hamilton Library.

One of Hawaii’s preeminent, and most beloved, historians, Gwenfread Allen, wrote: “Branch members from the beginning have had an outstanding record of professional achievement in their chosen fields. They have created art that has won national recognition; their books, plays and magazine articles have received wide circulation, and their music has been given great acclaim." Maintaining the splendid records set by their predecessors, members today are continuing work in art, letters, and music, using their creative abilities for the benefit and enjoyment of others.

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